Few bands bifurcate opinion as vociferously as Belle and Sebastian. Many people simply can’t see past the image of them fostered in their early publicity shots and sleeve notes: Duffel coat donning, butterfly net wielding perma-students gathered in a gang like some Vimto version of Dexys Midnight Runners. Building that band brand was a calculated risk – winsome, lose some – but the detractors who focussed on their Fotherington-Thomas feyness missed out on some great pop music.

It’s nearly twenty years since Stuart Murdoch pulled the band together as part of a college project. Inevitably, band members have come and gone and different styles and diversions gave been explored but Murdoch’s storytelling songwriting has remained at the band’s core. Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance, the band’s ninth studio album, has not quite appropriated the Pet Shop Boys idea of “Che Guevara and Debussy to a disco beat” but it does encompass a greater degree of large P Politics than we have seen before and welds it to a dance pop aesthetic to produce a kind of mirrorball manifesto.

Highlights include Nobody’s Empire which does borrow its opening arpeggios from the Pet Shop Boys’ version of Always On My Mind. Murdoch has described this as the most personal song he has written, combining his succumbing to ME with his first flourishings of faith.

If Enter Sylvia Plath threatens to cross The Bell Jar with Erasure -The Andy Bell Jar?- it’s to the band’s credit that they succeed in creating something genuinely stirring.

It’s not all Eurodisco big beats though . The Everlasting Muse is anchored to a double bass, breaking into an Eastern European klezmer-esque chorus. Final track Today (This Army’s For Peace) mines that swooning summer sound at which early Pink Floyd excelled.

If you have already fallen for Belle And Sebastian’s charms then there is much here to love. On the other hand, if you’d rather rub tin foil across your fillings than give B&S a listen, this album is unlikely to convert you. Me? I’m off down the disco in my duffel coat.

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